You’re prepared and prequalified to buy a home. Now, you can get to the fun part: house shopping. First, let us congratulate you on all you’ve already accomplished. Many people never pursue their dream of homeownership because of the legwork involved. At this stage, you’re far closer to becoming a homeowner than you might realize. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you’re shopping around. Please note that none of these recommendations are meant to be taken as real estate or financial advice.
Set Aside the Time
Buying a home could be a part-time job on its own, and can easily start to feel like a full-time job if you don’t manage your time deliberately. Decide beforehand what days and general times you want to dedicate to your home search.
For example, instead of trying to keep up with house hunting-related correspondence sporadically while you’re at work, you might designate 15 minutes of your lunch break to catch up on any calls or emails regarding showings and open houses. If you have a flexible work schedule, consider picking a few time slots during the week to see homes. The more efficient you are during the week, the more you can accomplish over the weekend, when you have a larger chunk of time to devote to house hunting.
Engage a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent who is experienced and knowledgeable in your local market can change the complexion of your search, not to mention move the process along much more quickly than if you were to do it all yourself. Instead of having to browse through endless listings, you tell them what you’re looking for and they handle the bulk of the search for you. Agents are almost always paid a commission by the seller, which means the consultancy and guidance you, as the buyer, receive is free of any charges or fees.
Identify Needs vs. Wants
What would really be a deal-breaker? Asking yourself this simple question will help you identify what you absolutely need in your new home, compared to things you would like but might be able to sacrifice. Is that extra bedroom essential, or would it just be nice to have when relatives come over a few times a year? Are granite countertops in the kitchen truly important to you? Would you give up square footage inside the home for a beautiful outdoor space? Remember that even the “perfect” home will likely require you to make a few compromises.
Learn What Your Budget Can Get You
The beauty in being prequalified for a mortgage is that you know exactly how much of a loan you are approved for. That means you can see homes listed up to that amount, with complete confidence that you can afford them. Early in your search, you will begin to notice general trends and price ranges in the area where you are looking to buy. If you’re not loving what you see, don’t be afraid to look in other desirable neighborhoods or towns nearby. Doing so can mean the difference between settling on something you don’t love and scoring a great deal you never thought you’d find.
See, Scrap & Save
As you’re viewing homes, it’s important to make sure you’re zeroing in rather than branching out. Even if you’re exploring homes in different areas, you should be able to narrow down your search relatively quickly. Contrary to popular belief, home buying does not have to be a taxing or drawn-out process. If you know your needs vs. wants, it’s easy to identify the type of home you are drawn to. All you have to do is make the time to see listings, then scrap the homes you don’t like and save the ones you find intriguing.
If you’re organized and motivated, it’s very realistic to go from house hunting to offer to contract, all in a matter of a few weeks. Again, a real estate agent can streamline this process for you.
Move on “The One”
When you see a home that you think might be “the one,” schedule a second showing as soon as possible. You don’t need to feel frantic or pressured to act fast, but a day or two can be an eternity for a home to be on the market. If you don’t express your interest and follow up in a timely manner, the home you want to see again might already have a bid in by the time you come back to it.
After the second showing, you should be able to make a gut decision. At this point, hopefully you’ve found the home you want to place an offer on. If not, don’t be discouraged. Continue on the path with your agent, and you will eventually find what you’re looking for. Then comes the mortgage, which we will discuss in our final post in this series.
Have questions? Credit.org is here to provide the tools and resources you need to become a homeowner. Learn more about our pre-purchase homeownership coaching and home buyer education workshops in California.